Rugby World Cup: Japan seek second scalp, Australia enter the fray against Fiji

Japan's Michael Leitch (right) and Luke Thompson (centre) during a training session at the Kingsholm Stadium.
Japan's Michael Leitch (right) and Luke Thompson (centre) during a training session at the Kingsholm Stadium. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (AFP) - Japan will seek a second famous World Cup scalp when they take on Scotland on Wednesday, when Australia will unleash their "jackals" in their first game.

An international wave of support could lift Japan after their heroic 34-32 win over South Africa in their first Pool B game last Saturday.

Scotland will have to be at their bravest to counter the Brave Blossoms in the passionate and festive atmosphere of the Kingsholm stadium in Gloucester, where their match kicks off at 1330 GMT (9.30pm, Singapore time).

Japan's Australian coach Eddie Jones said his side want to prove that the win over the two-time world champion Springboks was no "fluke". He said Japan were also fitter than Scotland.

"We know we are a fit team. If we can stick with them in the first 30 minutes and stay in the game until half-time, then we will win the game because we will run them off their feet," he said.

But Scotland have won all of the previous four games against the Asian champions, including a 100-8 success in 2004.

Scotland are well prepared "for what will be a very tough Test against a powerful and fit Japanese team," said their New Zealand coach Vern Cotter.

"They will have taken a lot of confidence from their opening win over South Africa, however that doesn't change our approach to this game or the pool.

"The priority for us is to ensure that we get our jobs right with accuracy, and impose ourselves on the game," added Cotter.

Japan's success threatens to overshadow what should have been the centrepiece of Wednesday's play, with two-time champions Australia opening their World Cup campaign.

The Wallabies play Fiji at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff (1545 GMT, 11.45pm Singapore time) in the second game involving rivals from Pool A, the toughest in the tournament which also features England and Wales.

Michael Cheika has named a strong team including "jackals" Michael Hooper and David Pocock - the flankers with the job of exposing Fiji's flaws.

It will be only the second time they have played together for Australia - the first was when the Wallabies scored a landmark 27-19 win over New Zealand to take the Southern Hemisphere's Rugby Championship in August.

Fiji lost 11-35 to England on the first day of the World Cup but are still a dangerous side who were not shamed in defeat.

"There is no feeling comfortable in our group," said Cheika. "Perhaps that's how it should be. It's the World Cup and it will be tough every game and we will have to earn everything we get."

Fiji coach John McKee has made four changes from the England loss.

Flanker Dominiko Waqaniburotu misses the game after being suspended for a week for a dangerous tackle on England's Jonny May. His place goes to Peceli Yato.

"Australia like to run the ball and we are expecting them to do that," said McKee. "We expect it to be a faster game than the England game, although if the ball comes our way I'm sure they will be trying to slow things down."

France's star centre Wesley Fofana returns to action after suffering an injury in the Pool D game against Romania.

But France have named a near-reserve team for the clash at London's Olympic Stadium, with 13 changes from the side that beat Italy on Saturday.

Romania caused a major upset when they beat France 12-6 in a Test in 1990. But Romanian rugby has since gone into a slumber and no repeat shock is expected.

Fofana still said he was wary, as Japan's victory over South Africa on Saturday "has shown everybody that no game is won in advance".